The wrestling business can be fickle, doling out fortune and frustration in equal measure – with little way of predicting how the worm will turn. Consider the intertwining sagas of former WWE/WCW/ECW enhancement talent du jour Barry Hardy and his pal, WWE/WCW semi-star Duane Gill.
The Maryland natives were neighbors in the same apartment complex in the Eighties: Hardy was a gifted athlete who’d never given a lick about pro wrestling, while Gill was a two-sport standout in high school and a passionate fan of the squared circle. Go figure, then, that Hardy stumbled into sports entertainment first, eventually recruiting and training his old buddy before they bounded their way into WWE as one of the early Nineties’ most prominent get-me-over tag teams (be it under their real names or beneath masks as the Executioners).
As the Attitude Era dawned, each had long since pursued solo competition, with Hardy heading off to WCW and, for a short spell, Extreme Championship Wrestling. Gill stayed busy working in carpentry while accepting the odd squash gig for WCW. But fate had other ideas, and this time Gill got the call to come back and work for WWE, leading to a memorable run as the company’s longest-running Light Heavyweight Champion (for real), a stint in the notorious J.O.B. Squad and, most famously, a turn as a fan favorite under the shameless (but awesome) Goldberg parody gimmick Gillberg.
Yet through all the unpredictable twists and turns, Hardy and Gill maintained their close bond, and are still in constant touch today (Hardy is still active, while Gill stays busy as the superintendent of a commercial contracting business). Which is why we offer up this installment of “Don’t Call Me a Jobber” as a tribute not only to their individual accomplishments, but to a friendship that blossomed during – and survived beyond – their time in the sport.
So with a snap of the singlet to Vanity Fair‘s “In The Details” interview series, here’s a panoply of eccentric biographical data, re: this inseparable, self-sacrificing duo.
BARRY WAS the son of a World War II veteran who got him into baseball by the age of eight, even though he dreamed being a professional roller-derby competitor and routinely went to go see his local Baltimore-Washington Cats.
DUANE SPENT Saturday afternoons as a kid watching wrestling with his dad, a mechanic who worked for Ryder Truck Rental. He claims he was “always known as a badass,” but “never knew how to become a professional wrestler.”
BARRY REMEMBERS when Gill used to “knock on the door [and ask], ‘Hey man, wanna come watch wrestling?’ And I’m like, ‘Hell no.'” He “didn’t really get what wrestling was,” until watching Hulk Hogan do interviews on TV.
BARRY GOT hooked up with NWA promoter Gary Juster through a friend, who referred him to Pretty Boy Larry Sharpe‘s wrestling school, the Monster Factory. His first match was against Chief Thunder Mountain in the World Wrestling Alliance, where he got yelled at because, “I just wasn’t hitting him hard enough.”
DUANE WATCHED WWE one weekend, recognized Hardy and shouted, “Holy shit! That’s Barry. Look how big he is now!” He promptly called Hardy, who replied, “I’ve been looking for you” and began training Gill that day. “I thought wrestling was real, ” he says. “Up until the day Barry started to teach me.”
DUANE JOINED Hardy for their first match together in Maryland Championship Wrestling six months after starting training. At first, he had problems taking back bumps. “I couldn’t fall straight back,” he remembers. “I wasn’t used to falling on my ass. I was used to making people fall on their ass.”
BARRY GUESSES there was a “good 80-125 extra enhancement talent” in the backstage for WWE TV tapings, who dressed in the hallway and were picked for matches “on their appearance.” Although he adds that they were all fed well, with “the food the guys needed to eat and stay big.”
BARRY INSISTS “I bumped my butt off” in he and Gill’s first WWE tag match together against Demolition.
DUANE BEAMS that early on, the Undertaker developed a fondness for working with him and would often request, “Give me Gill.”
BARRY LAMENTS that he and Gill’s idea to team as Lords of Darkness was shot down since Legion of Doom was coming to WWE, but Vince was on board with them donning the Executioners’ guise.
DUANE EXPLAINS that he and Hardy wrestled as both themselves and the Executioners in order to work as many matches as possible, and that one day Vince McMahon screamed, “This is not the damn Duane Gill hour. Somebody else wrestle, please!”
BARRY SNAGGED a ride home for he and Gill from Madison Square Garden with Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels the night Diesel won the title from Bob Backlund. “People were rocking the car. I thought they were gonna bust the window,” he says.
BARRY REGRETS that he and Gill eventually stopped working together, and subsequently fell out of touch “for years” after their bookings began to lessen by the mid-Nineties.
DUANE CLARIFIES that “there was no falling out” between the two men, and says Hardy “fulfilled my dream.” Soon after the split, he began working wrestling’s indie circuit, where he developed several parody gimmicks – including, fortuitously, Gillberg.
DUANE CREDITS former WWE booker Ed Ferrara with the idea of adding him to the J.O.B. Squad and making him Light Heavyweight Champion, and says Vince McMahon remarked, “Holy Christ, Duane Gill’s gonna be my champion.”
BARRY ADMITS that when Gill reemerged as Gillberg, he was happy for his former partner but wondered, “Man, why didn’t they pull me into the J.O.B. Squad?”
DUANE CHATTED about his Gillberg alter ego with Paul Bearer and Kane, and Bearer said, “I think you’ve got something there.”
DUANE WANTS Goldberg to make good on his promise of an ass-whooping, “because it will be a $150,000 match, and I could go out and make a complete fool of him for two minutes and then let him get a hold of me and kick my ass.”
BARRY’S GRATEFUL that Vince “paid me well and made me famous,” but is disappointed that he “can’t even walk in the back anymore and go see guys I know that are agents now,” and wishes Vince would “respect what we did for him with our bodies.”
DUANE ACKNOWLEDGES the “new guard don’t even know who I am,” although he’s confident if he made a stink about it and word got up to the McMahons, he’d be ushered backstage.
BARRY’S HOPE is that WWE might one day have an enhancement-talent wing of their Hall of Fame, and he feels Barry Horowitz should be the first singles inductee, and he and Gill the first tag team enshrined.
DUANE AGREES that, “If it wasn’t for us enhancement guys, the big names wouldn’t look as good.”